National and transnational studies of migration define borders within a political framework and try to explain ethnic group identity ultimately through migrants’ relationships to national identities. But the Dutch American community formed in the nineteenth century Midwest defined it self to a significant degree through non-political spatial and cultural relationships. The Dutch American community was a matrix of associations originating in the process of migration itself and in the struggles of the American Civil War. In settlements across the American Midwest, Dutch Americans sought belonging among their own and drew mental maps connecting their kind. They concentrated where possible, showed concern for establishing links between settlements, and by keeping ‘Yankees’ at arm’s length, retained cultural habits carried over from the Netherlands. The result was a unique and persistent Dutch American ethnic subculture.
Imagining a New Identity: The Dutch American Immigrant Community, 1845-1875
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